People sleep peacefully in their beds at night only because rough men stand ready to visit violence on those who would do them harm. — George Orwell
That’s a pretty cool quote, but it’s more than something I used to title a book. It hung above the bar in a unit I once belonged to. It was there because the people in that unit believed in it. Lived it. A simple sentence, it evoked the ethos of who we were. I should say “are”. Pike Logan, the hero of my books, believes in the quote as well, but he’s simply imitating what I have seen in real life. Pike Logan is a fictional character, but he is real. He exists in greater numbers than the public is aware. Not as many as we need, but probably more than people believe.
Before I continue, a caveat: I am not Pike Logan. I have had the honor of serving with many, many Pike Logans, but I am not he. The Ranger Battalions have an unofficial quote that you see here and there on local posters or tee-shirts: “I’m not the killer man, I’m the killer man’s son, but I’ll do the killing ‘til the killer man comes.” That’s pretty much where I come in. I held the title of commander, and went through all of the same training, did the same operations side-by-side, but there is a level of talent that no training can imbue. A level that really can’t be defined or quantified. It’s just there. That’s Pike Logan, and trust me, he’s real. I’ve seen him work the miracles that are in my books and am lucky enough to call him a friend.
My experiences help mold my books in ways that are decidedly unique. From the moment I entered the Army, I worked very hard to become a master at fire and maneuver, not because I was going to write a book and needed the research, but because people’s lives may have depended on that knowledge, and I didn’t want any lack of effort on my part to be the reason for the death of someone in my platoon, team, troop or squadron. In the same vein, I didn’t study terrorism and insurgency because I was mildly curious. I studied it because I spent the better part of eight years chasing terrorists in the highest priority combat unit within the Department of Defense. It was my job to understand the threat we faced so that we could combat it. In the end, the reader benefits, because if it’s in one of my books, it’s realistic. I just can’t write it any other way.
Notice I say “realistic” and not “accurate”. Rest assured, given the equipment and circumstances, the operator would act exactly the way I’ve described, but that doesn’t necessarily mean I’m accurately describing real-world tactics, techniques, or procedures. Some things are secret for a reason, and I’m not going to help the enemy by writing about them, fiction or otherwise.
While it’s true the ideas for my novels come from my experiences, they weren’t a driving force behind me writing. The truth is I’ve just always wanted to write a novel. Simple as that. In 1988, on a first date with my future wife, after a few too many margaritas, I told her I was trying out for Special Forces and I was going to write a novel. The fact that I was just trying to get her clothes off didn’t alter the reality of those goals. The clothes stayed on – at least on that date – but my goals never changed. I enjoyed twenty-one years in the Army, and accomplished more than I ever thought I would. During my last assignment, I decided to give my second goal a try.
Pike Logan has been brewing for a number of years. He didn’t have a name or a face, but he had energy. I’ve had ideas kicking around in my head for most of my adult life, but never had the time to put anything down. When I began my last assignment as an instructor, I had a lot of time on my hands. Especially given the job I had just come from. I had so much time I didn’t know what to do with myself. So, one night after my wife went out with girlfriends, I started writing, a little afraid of what I’d find out. When she came home I said, “I have good news and bad news. The good news is that I can write. The bad news is it took three hours to get out one paragraph.”
The rest, as they say, is history.